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Performance Factor of Self-care: Disconnecting Breaks

Posted on June 2, 2017

I’m on a conference call with a training client, finalizing the content and length for a training I’m conducting a couple of months in the future. It’s a great call, and then one of the program staff chuckles when I ask about whether they want a self-care component in the training. I ask, “What’s so funny over there?” The answer: “Can you please talk to our executive director about self-care? He’s taking this call on a beach in Florida on his vacation!”

The situation above happens once every few months. I get on a conference call, and soon realize someone is calling in from vacation. What amazes me, even more, is that rarely are these calls urgent, or even that important. We all know the training is happening, we are all aware the date, and most of the details could easily be worked out over e-mail or on a call the following week.

Do we ever actually disconnect? I’d guess, from my experience, that most people reading this check their emails outside of work hours. Some of us check email and take calls or check voicemail on vacation. People, we must stop!

First of all, if we never disconnect, it creates a mental state similar to the hyperaroused flight or fight response. We are always anticipating and reacting to the next piece of communication. A couple of boring emails or voicemails might not seem to have a huge impact on us psychologically, but when we get a negative email or one that drops a load of work on our plates, the reaction to the communication often hits us right before dinner, or while we should be relaxing on vacation.

Second, when we never disconnect, we never have a chance to recover from the stress of our work. When we go to work, we plug into all the good and stressful parts of our job. Turning off our technology when we leave work (which I understand is nearly impossible for those of you on call) unplugs us from the stress. As soon as we pick up e-mail outside the workday, we plug back into the stress, intensifying its impact and taking away our ability to refresh.

I know that our technology makes staying connected so amazingly easy. We can log in from our laptop as we watch television, our cell phones give constant access to both phone and email, and our society promotes and glorifies those that work 24/7. Think back to the cup analogy,  staying plugged in is the equivalent of having a constant drip of stress going into your cup. At the same time, it hinders your other self-care strategies, such as social connections, mindfulness, sleep, and exercise from having their full rejuvenating effect.

For our health, for our families, and for our clients and co-workers, we must disconnect! Unless I’m expecting something important and urgent, I what I call a hard checkout where I don’t check e-mails in the evenings, weekends, and NEVER on vacation. These hard checkouts allow me to give me clients the best of myself, and not some burned-out, cranky mess of a human being.

I don’t do this work for the emails or phone calls; I do it because I love helping people. Emails and calls are part of me helping people, but it is a small piece. I made a choice not to compromise my overall performance by obsessing over each and every email that I know can wait until tomorrow. That’s my conclusions, I would love to hear yours!

26 responses to “Performance Factor of Self-care: Disconnecting Breaks”

  1. Mandy Griffith says:

    Do you by chance have podcasts? Would love to listen to articles and info while driving or at work

  2. Mandy Griffith says:

    Do you by chance have podcasts? Would love to listen to articles and info while driving or at work

  3. Roger Pankau says:

    Wow, what a powerful message to spread to the masses. I used to ‘think’ that I had to be ‘on’ every minute of everyday and as technology improved…I WAS! Until one time on vacation I climbed onto a conference call (so important right?) leaving my wife and kids to wait for dad to get ‘done’ with business. It ruined the whole day, my mind was no longer on vacation, so neither was my body and I lost a precious day I will never get back…so now, believe you me, I follow your advice and am planning that vacation right NOW…Be well Matt.

  4. Roger Pankau says:

    Wow, what a powerful message to spread to the masses. I used to ‘think’ that I had to be ‘on’ every minute of everyday and as technology improved…I WAS! Until one time on vacation I climbed onto a conference call (so important right?) leaving my wife and kids to wait for dad to get ‘done’ with business. It ruined the whole day, my mind was no longer on vacation, so neither was my body and I lost a precious day I will never get back…so now, believe you me, I follow your advice and am planning that vacation right NOW…Be well Matt.

  5. sara says:

    Maybe because I’m older and didn’t grow up with instant connections but I do have a hard and fast rule about disengaging when I’m not working. I don’t check emails, I don’t answer calls, etc.

    I work two jobs, one with a school system and one with a hospital. Both those jobs require me to be constantly ‘on’ in a certain sense. I accept that, and thrive on it, but I am, by nature, a selfish person and I kind of like my time ‘off’ as well. That’s what has enabled me to continue to do my two jobs for the past two decades when so many others burn out. I’m also good at what I call compartmentalizing – work goes in one compartment, home in another, and when I transition I ‘shut the door’ on the other section.

    And some of this is just a result of being old enough to have discovered that we are born with a finite amount of time in this world, and in the end, it’s not the ‘what if’s that you regret, but the ‘if only’s. I have very few ‘if only’s…

  6. sara says:

    Maybe because I’m older and didn’t grow up with instant connections but I do have a hard and fast rule about disengaging when I’m not working. I don’t check emails, I don’t answer calls, etc.

    I work two jobs, one with a school system and one with a hospital. Both those jobs require me to be constantly ‘on’ in a certain sense. I accept that, and thrive on it, but I am, by nature, a selfish person and I kind of like my time ‘off’ as well. That’s what has enabled me to continue to do my two jobs for the past two decades when so many others burn out. I’m also good at what I call compartmentalizing – work goes in one compartment, home in another, and when I transition I ‘shut the door’ on the other section.

    And some of this is just a result of being old enough to have discovered that we are born with a finite amount of time in this world, and in the end, it’s not the ‘what if’s that you regret, but the ‘if only’s. I have very few ‘if only’s…

  7. Terry Cottle says:

    Matt, great series on self-care, thank you! I experienced the turning off work for the first time in 5 years during my last vacation. I knew I had competent people at work who could take care of just about anything that came up. I forwarded emails and phone calls to our new AA and didn’t think about work again. A couple of days on vacation I actually forgot my phone when we went out!

  8. Terry Cottle says:

    Matt, great series on self-care, thank you! I experienced the turning off work for the first time in 5 years during my last vacation. I knew I had competent people at work who could take care of just about anything that came up. I forwarded emails and phone calls to our new AA and didn’t think about work again. A couple of days on vacation I actually forgot my phone when we went out!

  9. Angela says:

    Oh my goodness Matt! I feel like you were directing this exactly to me! LOL! So helpful and timely. Thanks for this great article on self-care. Looks like I have some more work to don on this issue for my own care. Thanks again!

  10. Angela says:

    Oh my goodness Matt! I feel like you were directing this exactly to me! LOL! So helpful and timely. Thanks for this great article on self-care. Looks like I have some more work to don on this issue for my own care. Thanks again!

  11. Brian says:

    The worst example I am guilty of is returning a call ( I had checked my office voice mail for messages) to a client re: a bus pass no less -while hiking in Yosemite National Park during my first vacation in 6 years on this job. My traveling companion was furious and encouraged me to quit this job – “they don’t pay you enough” he said. He was right.

    • Matt Bennett says:

      Man, my heart just breaks reading your example, and yet I heard so many like them. Our mantra needs to be, “I’m disconnecting for my clients as much as myself!”

  12. Brian says:

    The worst example I am guilty of is returning a call ( I had checked my office voice mail for messages) to a client re: a bus pass no less -while hiking in Yosemite National Park during my first vacation in 6 years on this job. My traveling companion was furious and encouraged me to quit this job – “they don’t pay you enough” he said. He was right.

    • Matt Bennett says:

      Man, my heart just breaks reading your example, and yet I heard so many like them. Our mantra needs to be, “I’m disconnecting for my clients as much as myself!”

  13. Joanne Guarino says:

    I needed to read this tonight. It seems the faster I go to get things done,the be hinder I get. I don’t work at a paying job however I am on two board f directors five consumer advisory boards and numerous conference calls. I have noticed that I put calls on speaker so I can work on something else. I have found that not only did I have to retread the minutes but had to do the other job over. Between speaking engagements and so much more I feel burnt. Thank you Matt. I am turning my phone and computer off right now to spend time with family!!!!

  14. Joanne Guarino says:

    I needed to read this tonight. It seems the faster I go to get things done,the be hinder I get. I don’t work at a paying job however I am on two board f directors five consumer advisory boards and numerous conference calls. I have noticed that I put calls on speaker so I can work on something else. I have found that not only did I have to retread the minutes but had to do the other job over. Between speaking engagements and so much more I feel burnt. Thank you Matt. I am turning my phone and computer off right now to spend time with family!!!!

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